Monday, August 4, 2014

2014 ACS Salary Survey: employment up, unemployment down, median salaries flat

Finally, from this week's C&EN, news from the 2014 Salary Survey, written up by Sophie Rovner:
  • Employment: "91.9% of ACS member chemists are employed full-time—defined as at least 35 hours of work per week. Over the past decade, that rate peaked at 92.5% in 2008 and then bottomed out at 88.1% in 2010. By last year, it had recovered to 91.1%."
  • Unemployment: "Conversely, 2.9% of chemists are unemployed, down from 3.5% last year and 4.2% in 2012. This improvement is echoed in unemployment statistics reported by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The ACS survey results also show that during the past 10 years, the unemployment rate among U.S. chemists has ranged from a low of 2.3% in 2008—early in the Great Recession—to a high of 4.6% in 2011."
  • Education levels: "Degree level makes a considerable difference in employability. This year U.S. chemists with a bachelor’s or master’s degree are roughly twice as likely as those with a doctorate to be unemployed. Unemployment for Ph.D. chemists stands at 2.2%, compared with 4.2% and 4.6% for bachelor’s and master’s degree holders, respectively."
  • Salaries not keeping up with inflation: "Meanwhile, median annual salaries for U.S. chemists are stuck at last year’s levels of $102,000 for Ph.D. chemists, $85,000 for those with a master’s degree, and $72,000 for bachelor’s degree chemists. Because inflation is eating away at those salaries, chemists are actually losing ground in terms of buying power compared with last year, Edwards says."
A lackluster recovery, it seems. More later.

UPDATE: C&EN Onion has about the right take on this (NB satire):
Unemployed chemistry graduates breathed a collective sigh of relief today as the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its July Employment Situation Summary.  Taylor Baker (22), currently working on a food truck, recently received her bachelors degree in chemistry from Northeastern University.  "I'm so glad that the employment situation is looking better!" exclaimed Baker, ecstatic that unemployment in the chemical sciences at the bachelor's level fell from 4.6% to 4.2% from June to July.  
"Only half of my paycheck is going to paying off my student loans.  The other half's going to rent for my Allston apartment, but at least I got approved for a $5000 line of credit!" added Baker.


  1. I'm sure this has been mentioned before, I'm sure i just haven't read enough of the comments:

    Considering the number of chemists who have their memberships paid for by their employer, and who wouldn't continue to keep their membership up if unemployed (or start a membership until employed), I wonder how over-ambitious their member survey results are? If I'm broke and unemployed as a new grad, that membership fee might go better to paying my rent instead of getting nice mug every year, at which point i wouldn't be reflected in those results.

  2. Full-time is 35 hrs per week? Why not make it 20 hrs per week and make the numbers look better with 99 % employment for ACS members?

  3. How many of those chemists are actually employed to do Chemistry? Burger-flippers are employed full-time. As the first poster alludes to, we are also faced with the problem of self-selection. How representative of the actual population of chemists are ACS members?

  4. At least employment is going in the right direction.

  5. PhD's are 50% less likely to be unemployed. But 75% more likely to be stock in post-doc forever...